Environmental engineering is a broad field that utilizes scientific principles to better understand and manage the behavior of the environment (air, water, and/or land). Chemical engineers are also tasked with addressing the world's continuously growing need for energy, in a fashion that is both efficient and sustainable.

Petroleum Gelation and Solidification Properties


Matthew Lassogna ’14 works measures the viscosity of petroleum samples.

Offshore petroleum extraction has become more important over the past few decades because of the depletion of onshore oil reserves. In order for the oil to be processed, it must be brought to shore, typically through the use of subsea oil pipelines. Because of the cold temperatures on the ocean floor, it is possible for particular components of the oil to solidify. This solidification causes an increase in costs to the petroleum industry, particularly if solid gels are formed in the pipeline, restricting or preventing flow. This research looks into how the composition of the oil influences the ability for solids to form in the oil and to form a gel.

Sustainable Biodiesel Production


Assistant Professor Lindsay Soh examines a sample of biodiesel fuel.

In order to supplant fossil fuels, renewable sources must be developed to create sustainable fuel and chemical products.  Green processes for the extraction and conversion of materials to produce fuels and value added products is crucial towards providing these alternatives.

Research in the Environment and Energy Lab seeks to utilize green engineering in order to improve these processes.  Current work focuses on the optimization of biodiesel production by:

  • utilizing alternative reagents that minimize waste products during biodiesel conversion;
  • optimizing biodiesel conversion reactions with solid catalyst in green solvent, carbon dioxide;
  • establishing appropriate biodiesel blends for enhanced cold flow properties.

Cold-Flow Properties of Biofuels

Stephanie McCartney, '17, Rebecca Miller, '16 and Rachel Elias, '17, move biofuel samples in the lab November 18th, 2015. A Lafayette research team led by assistant professors of chemical and biomolecular engineering Michael Senra and Lindsay Soh is studying the cold flow properties of biofuels to increase its' stability for cold weather performance.

Stephanie McCartney, ’17, Rebecca Miller, ’16 and Rachel Elias, ’17, move biofuel samples in the lab.

Biofuels are gradually becoming more and more integrated in our lives, replacing fuels derived from petroleum and other non-renewable energy sources. A significant reason why biofuels have not become more prevalent is their performance at cold temperatures often seen in the Northeastern United States during winter. Notably, many biofuels partially or completely change from liquid to solid, which can cause significant damage to equipment such as car engines. Current research has focused on how the composition of the biofuel and the presence of additives created during the production of biofuel influence the solidification temperature. It is hoped that these insights will help motivate an efficient development of biofuels suitable for the cold winters.

Properties of Atmospheric Aerosols

Working with Professor Joseph Woo on Pendant Drop tensiometry student Thomas Beier '19 works in the lab. Chuck Zovko / Zovko Photographic llc July 14, 2016

Thomas Beier ’19 and Assistant Professor Joseph Woo test for surface tension properties.

The chemistry that occurs within atmospheric aerosols – small particles or droplets in the atmosphere – is a major sticking point in current understanding of climate change mechanics. While the heating and cooling effects of many atmospheric phenomena have been estimated with good certainty, the effect of aerosols remains poorly characterized and as a result contributes the largest source of inaccuracy to atmospheric models. Research at Lafayette aims to increase the understanding of the physical effects of several relevant atmospheric volatile organic compounds on atmospheric aerosols, via a combination of experimental and computational techniques.